29 November 2013

I feel the need, the need for speed!

Picture it. The date is mid-October 2013. I've been trying for months to get a faster ADSL signal to no avail - I'm just too far from the exchange. I'm getting this result on Speedtest:

Earlier on in the year, I saw a new box go up on a crossroads about 500 m from our house. It was a fibre optic box - yay! It was owned by Orange, only for Orange customers - boo! (I was with SFR, Orange's main competitor). I asked them how I could get the fibre goodness and they said "Well, Orange has an exclusive because they put in the equipment, but that exclusivity runs out after a year." Fine, I thought resigned to living in the (very) slow lane while my neighbours whooped it up at high speed around me.

Then a sales guy from Orange came around and explained that not only could I switch but that Orange would pick up the cancellation fees from SFR, that it was a FTTH connection and that it came with a TV box that could have a 3D Blu-Ray player, etc. Woohoo! Back in business... There was a question of whether I wanted 100 Mbps or 200 Mbps. I would have frankly been very happy with 100 Mbps, but that offer didn't include free phone calls around the world and since we speak to folk in other countries probably more than we do to people in France, we needed that phone service. It turns out that it was no more expensive than the deal I was getting with SFR, so even better.

Around this time, I started getting better download rates from SFR:

But still only D- from Grade F. I called SFR and explained that I was cancelling and they tried many things, including dropping the price considerably, but I explained that while they'd been good to me for the last eight years I needed the speed for my work. "Fairy nuff", said the lady (or the French equivalent) and so I was on my way to Orange (I left them eight years ago because their broadband speed was even worse than SFR's).

There was a moment of worry since Orange maintained that my scheduled installation date was just not possible and so after a couple of hours of listening to execrable hold music and shouting they agreed that I should have had my installation and so arranged it for the Thursday. The guy came, but had trouble finding the phone junction box outside in our garden. Since the house was built (and before we took occupancy) a tree had sprouted and grown laaarge. In French gardens there are usually a couple or more junction boxes. One for water, one for phone and perhaps one for gas - the electric is on the wall outside the front of the house. Well we had to dig to get to the water one, a concrete box buried under a mass of dead leaves and mulch and the box was caved in on two sides by the roots of the tree, so we feared the worst for the phone box situated in the same place, but that we couldn't find. Kevin the tech called off the visit, citing an inability to find the box he was looking for. My very good friend Tom came over to help after Kevin had gone and he managed to find the phone box, buried deep in the mulch, but still in good nick. I called Orange and they got Kevin to come back the following Tuesday. It had been more than a week since I had cancelled SFR and yet my connection was still working! I didn't know how long it would hold out, and since the whole point of moving to fibre was to support my work I really needed to keep a net connection, even if it was at a shit speed. It was still running Tuesday morning when Kevin came back and together we sorted it out (actually I'm sure I was getting in the way more than anything, but he was very kind - I was too excited!). He got it all set up and left about four hours later...

Obviously I just had to check Speedtest. I had gone from:

A-fucking-+!!!! My 200 Mbps connection was giving me nearer 300...

My thanks to Orange, who were initially shitty, but really got on the case and made sure I was completely happy (my speed dropped last week to just 100 Mbps and I explained that while I was ecstatic to even get that speed, it wasn't what I was paying for and they even sent an engineer around to check - turns out that in my tidying cables I had managed to swap a couple around and to get the extreme high speed, the RJ-45 connectors on the ends of the ethernet cable need an 8-wire connection rather than just four and I had managed to swap cables. The engineer said nothing.)

To give you some idea of what this means, a bittorrent of LibreOffice would take me about an hour before. Now it's done within two minutes. I'm actually actively looking for large downloads just to test my connection.